An intense murder investigation is rapidly becoming an equally intense trial as an attorney for a Diamond Bar man accused of killing his former roommate had sharp criticism for Sheriff’s deputies and their police work.
Attorney Matthew G. Kaestner is representing Kyle Jacobs, 26, of Diamond Bar. Jacobs is accused of fatally shooting former roommate Ryan Modica on April 7, 2011. He has pleaded not guilty to a first-degree murder charge claiming that he fired on Modica in self-defense.
While the day started with an account of the shooting from a neighbor, it ended with an angry Kaestner questioning the truthfulness of sworn testimony by two Los Angeles County deputies.
At issue is the position of a mallet-like hammer that Jacobs said Modica threatened to use as a weapon against him. The defense claims Modica arrived at the Jacobs' home, at 1115 North Del Sol Lane, looking for a tool and quickly became aggressive.
The men exchanged insults, according to various testimonies. When Modica advanced toward him with the hammer, Jacobs fired a shotgun, striking his target right below the right eye, according to testimony.
Deputies Perry Vellanoweth and Mark St. Amant testified the hammer, which could be seen in crime scene photos on the ground next to Modica’s hand, appeared to have been moved.
Deputy District Attorney T.D. Pham questioned the men. Both testified the hammer’s handle had in fact been resting across the wrist and forearm area when they first inspected. St. Amant then testified that Jacobs, who had been placed in the back of his patrol car, began to talk to him while he moved his vehicle to a different location near the crime scene.
Jacobs had not been read his Miranda rights, Kaestner said. He had even sharper words for the information about the hammer’s location, which he said, was never provided during discovery.
“There appears to be some manufacturing on this whole hammer on the arm (story),” Kaestner said. “I received no discovery on this. Apparently these deputies sat around in the (District Attorney’s) office and manufactured … I mean to accuse sitting deputies of manufacturing, committing perjury is something I don’t do lightly.”
Kaestner told Judge Mike Camacho he was suspicious of Vellanoweth, who he described as “shaking like a leaf” while telling what he called a crazy story about how the hammer moved. He also told the judge he was also angry that St. Amant was changing what he wrote on his report.
St. Amant testified it was only later while he was taping off the crime scene that the hammer’s position had moved. He documented the hammer’s last location, not the one he saw it in originally.
“I want to know when they got together and put this story together,” Kaestner said in frustration.
The day of testimony was difficult, especially for members of Modica’s family who were confronted with graphic crime scene and coroner photos. Some shielded or averted their eyes while others watched sullen but quietly.
Deputies also testified that Jacobs surrendered on his own, walking up to them when they approached with his hands up and announcing, “I just shot my ex-roommate. He attacked me with a hammer.”
The trial was scheduled to resume this morning at Pomona Superior Court.